February 12, 2013

Is Stress Bad?

The short answer to this title question is: sometimes.

Yet not all stress is bad for us. Stressful situations encourage us to grow and thrive—to become the best possible people that we can be.

If I think back to the events of my lifetime thus far that have provided me with the opportunity for real self-evolution, these instances and moments in my journey are quite often the heart-breaking trials I’ve faced rather than the life-is-a-bowl-of-cherries, blissful ones.


Because when we’re forced to endure hardships, we find out that we’re made of more than we thought.

There have been times in my life when I was certain I could not handle the bitter periods of grief that were forced upon me, or upon the people that I love the most in this world—but I did. Not only did I endure these grueling miseries, I rose above them. I became the phoenix rising above the ashes. (The very same phoenix that I tattooed on my right arm in high school to remind me of this always-present ability in each of us, in me.)

The strange thing about life is that we can’t realize that we’re truly happy—that we feel content and complete and whole—until we fall apart first.

Life is not a series of beautiful occasions. Life is not a continuous moment of joy or peace. Yes, life should contain these qualities, but if it only contained these attributes, life would be flat; life would be shallow.

Rather, life is three-dimensional, round and full. To be full, sometimes we need to be empty. To be round is to be the exact opposite of flat and shallow.

Bloom where you’re planted. I love that saying. I’m a visual person, and I can literally envision myself blooming no matter what my surroundings happen to be. Lately I’ve been wearing a gold lotus around my neck. I got it for myself as a gift with some of the money I earned from elephant journal’s December writing contest. I got it for myself because I’ve been experiencing a lot of unsettling emotions. Emotions that arise from spending more time away from my toddler than ever before in order to participate in a yoga teacher training. This golden lotus reminds me that I’ll be a better person because of my tears. My tears will water the seed of my soul. My tears will dry, the sun will return, and I’ll be a bolder, stronger blossom because of them.

So does stress have to be bad? My answer is no.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t avoid stress like the plague sometimes. I practice yoga daily (on and off my mat) so that I can keep myself focused on what’s important and to come into unity with my self and the world around me. Likewise, I avoid stress that isn’t necessary whenever possible and I deal with those unavoidable stresses as best as I can.

Still, when life hands me lemons, I don’t let them make my life sour (for long). I try to always remind myself to turn those lemons into kick-butt limoncello for the party that lies ahead.


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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